Bargaining Committee Election Results

Congratulations to our newly elected bargaining committee members!

After our vote 9/6, with five spots filled, the full committee leading SENS-UAW in Fall 2018:

Angela Butel (Public and Urban Policy, Milano)

Zoe Carey (Sociology, NSSR)

Michael Dobson (Politics, NSSR)

Cagla Orpen (Politics, NSSR)

Kevin Rice (Psychology, NSSR)

Jonas Voigt (Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons)

Strike Announcement, 13 May 2018

Today, the Bargaining Committee sent out the following message to our members:

Dear SENS members,

After a phenomenal four day strike this week, we have engaged with members extensively over the last 36 hours to seek their input on the path forward. This engagement has included meetings, one on one conversations, an electronic straw poll and phone banks. We will also be having a further Organizing Committee meeting on Tuesday from 11-1 in the Social Justice Hub. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to us.

While we have been successful in shifting the administration from their initial economic proposal of April 12, the reality is we remain far apart in our understanding of what amounts to a fair contract for academic student workers. Accordingly, while we will certainly make ourselves known at graduation and through continued direct action, we will not continue the strike on Monday.

The university has still not recognized how important healthcare is, and continues to offer insufficient proposals on other economic matters. We believe that continuing the strike next week will not change this dynamic sufficiently to reach an agreement this semester.

We will be offering the University bargaining dates this week in good faith. More importantly we must plan and strategize on how to build on this powerful foundation of solidarity and strength in order to come back strong in the Fall prepared to negotiate at the bargaining table, raise our voices, strike our labor and disrupt the campus for a fair contract. We encourage everyone to come to Tuesday’s OC meeting, where we will discuss further actions.

Over the week of the strike we had incredible picket line captains leading chants until they had no voice, making sure people were fed, watered and sun screened, and keeping us all safe. We shamed The New School on the streets of New York City and on a national level, which will have lasting impact and is impetus for further disruption. Our voices have been heard even on the floor of the U.S. Senate. And we successfully engaged the broader New School community to educate them on the legitimacy and importance of our struggle. We also want to say how much we enjoyed the food prepared in the New School cafeteria this week, acknowledge those who cooked it, and express our hope that a way can be found to continue this radical experiment in the new academic year.

Mostly, we want to express a huge thank you to everyone who showed up to the picket line, who struck their work, and to the many faculty who rearranged their classes and helped make this strike such a success. When the call went out, it was answered, and answered loudly.

As Senator Bernie Sander said in his letter of 10 May 2018 to President Van Zandt, “It is critically important that colleges and universities recognize the significant contributions these workers make by supporting their right to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, and negotiate contracts that provide essential benefits like health care.” We have been incredibly inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and solidarity we have seen on the picket line. We remain immovably committed: we will not let this administration perpetuate a status quo built on the exploitation of precarious student labor.

We know our worth. We know our strength. And we are not done.

In solidarity,
SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee

We corrected President Van Zandt’s message to the community

President Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall wrote a misleading message to our community regarding the state of our contract negotiations. See our revisions below.

Subject: We corrected DVZ’s message to the community

20 April 2018

To The New School Community,

SENS-UAW was pleased to read the recent update from the President and Provost on the progress of achieving a collective bargaining agreement for Academic Student Workers (ASWs) at the New School. Unfortunately, that update omitted many important details and misrepresented others. Lest the community be left with a mistaken impression, we address these issues below.

We want to update you on progress toward a first collective bargaining agreement with SENS-UAW, the union representing approximately 850 student workers at The New School. These include Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants, Course Assistants and Tutors.

This is correct! Contrary to the subject line of the President’s email, however, (“Graduate Student Union Contract Update”), many of these students are undergraduates – SENS-UAW represents all students employed in an academic role on campus, not just graduate students.

You can learn more about this unit and the university’s long-standing partnerships with eight other labor unions on campus here.

You can learn about the university’s plans to fire its unionized cafeteria workers here.

The New School began contract negotiations with SENS-UAW in September, shortly after the union was certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

This fails to mention that certification in September came only after the university administration lost its appeal to the full Federal Board of the NLRB in Washington D.C., trying to overturn the decision of the NLRB Regional Director that recognized our right to unionize. The full, expensive, unnecessary, unsuccessful tale of the New School’s legal efforts to fight our union, dating back to 2014, can be found on the NLRB’s website, here.

Since that time, representatives from the university have been regularly meeting with their counterparts from SENS-UAW. Progress to-date has been well ahead of what has been the case in many other negotiations. NYU, the only other private university with a graduate student union contract in place, took more than 18 months to finalize an agreement.

In point of fact, NYU’s contract was settled in around half the number of negotiating sessions that we have had so far. Moreover, after fighting for over four years for our union, SENS-UAW is committed to securing a contract this semester that will take effect in Fall 2018. We are deeply concerned that the administration does not share this commitment. To take only the most recent example, the administration insisted it needed more than four months to draft a response to our economic demands. That response, when we finally received it, was half a page long.

Working together, union representatives and New School staff have been able to reach consensus on a number of areas and are working hard to address other important concerns to our academic student workers, such as the need to ensure on-time wage payments in addition to enhanced wages and other benefits.

We welcome this acknowledgment from the administration that student employees need to be paid on time, and that this contract is necessary to ensure that. We find it a pretty stunning admission – in light of the administration’s previous insistence that such a contract was unnecessary – but a welcome and accurate one.

Negotiating a collective bargaining agreement is a complex process. This is especially true in the case of a first-time agreement, and even more so in the relatively uncharted territory of a unionized workforce made up of students at a private university. There are major considerations and decisions involved that need to be thought through carefully from a range of perspectives as they will impact other parts of the University community as well as generations of students to come. We take this responsibility very seriously.

We agree that these are complex and important issues. We remain, as always, enthusiastically available to explain them to the administration. We have reached consensus on many issues, but continue to encounter frustrating delays from the administration on key matters. We look forward to closing the remaining gaps between parties’ positions and concluding the contract before the end of the semester.

We remain committed to the process of negotiation and are working with the goal of creating a strong, fair, and successful contract. We will to hold true to these values regardless of what other universities may choose to do or the shifting composition of the NLRB.

Duly noted.

In the current phase of negotiations, you may notice posters or various public demonstrations around our campus. These expressions by SENS-UAW focus attention on the process we are engaged in and promote specific union demands. We respect the union’s right to be visible and vocal and acknowledge that SENS-UAW has respected campus guidelines that are in place to ensure that teaching, learning and services to faculty and students are always our most important priority.

We respect the university’s right to be “visible and vocal” in promoting itself as an institution that lives up to the progressive values upon which it was founded. We think it’s false advertising if it doesn’t pay student workers a living wage.

We firmly believe that both sides in this negotiation process share a sense of responsibility to the academic mission of The New School and to all students who choose to pursue their education here.

We firmly believe in the academic mission of The New School too. It’s why we’re here. It’s why we work as hard as we do. But we are tired of seeing friends and colleagues exhausted, some to the point of dropping out, by the chronic undervaluing of our labor. If this university can afford to spend $50,411,000 (in 2016) on “Institutional Support”, it can afford to provide decent wages and benefits to academic student workers – those of us actually teaching classes, grading papers, and undertaking research. We recognize what we contribute to the academic mission of this institution. The administration, as yet, does not.

We look forward to continued progress on a new contract.

Great. Give us a real economic proposal.

2017 Year in Review

What exactly went down in 2017? Well, after nearly three years of organizing, this year we finally won our union! Here’s our end of year review, which highlights the immense organizing we’ve done, the allies we’ve made, and the fight ahead, one whose challenges we can certainly overcome — as we have those past — with solidarity and collective action.

SENS-UAW Year in Review 2017

The New School tries to downplay it’s anti-union legal battle

The good news…our election is only days away, Wednesday, May 3 & Thursday, May 4, and support and excitement is growing.  Our commitment to building a union is stronger than ever.  We are inspired by the accomplishments of our unionized colleagues at other universities and the part-time faculty here at The New School.
The not so good news…the administration continues to engage in legal machinations to obstruct our election.
Yesterday, President Van Zandt sent a message to the entire university community. The collegial tone of his message is at odds with the legal campaign the administration has waged against our union.  President Van Zandt says that the New School “look[s] forward to hosting the election.” Yet, for two and a half years, the administration has blocked our efforts to form our union.  We have won every legal fight, but enormous time, energy and valuable resources have been wasted.
In his message, President Van Zandt downplays the administration’s appeal, “The New School also has asked the NLRB to review one, limited aspect of its recent decision….” But in its legal filing the administration asks the NLRB to overturn the decision and disenfranchise voters.  In fact, the University argues on nearly every page of its brief that the majority of the student workers found eligible by the NLRB to vote in the election should be barred from participating in the union, saying “…there could be no finding that there is an expectation of recurring employment of Graduate Assistants at The New School, except for the few fully-funded students…”(page 10). The university has had months to make these arguments. It is a common approach that employers take to defeat unionization by their employees.
We are confident that when the ballots are counted we will have won by a significant margin, like our colleagues at Columbia and NYU.  Unfortunately, The New School has persuaded the NLRB to challenge the ballot of every voter on the eligibility list during the election.  This is unprecedented in the history of NLRB elections.  It appears that The New School will be known in corporate circles for having achieved a new way to fight unions – “The New School Challenge”.    This will be the labor relations legacy of President Van Zandt and his administration and will be a significant stain on The New School’s progressive history.
We will not be turned back.  We will honor The New School’s truly enlightened mission by voting UNION YES next week.
We look forward to celebrating when the election concludes next Thursday.  But once the polls close, let’s all commit to fighting for the ballots to be counted and for negotiations to commence in good faith.
In Solidarity,
SENS-UAW organizing committee


On April 22nd, The New School filed a Request for Review with the Regional Labor Board in an attempt to wage another legal battle against SENS-UAW and claim that we are not workers with the right to unionize. Instead of respecting the outcome of the election as we had hoped they would do, the university is wasting time and resources in costly legal battles to fight us.  We are outraged by this flagrant disregard for our democratic rights and violation of the social justice principles that The New School brands itself upon.


It is more important than ever that we show up and vote yes for SENS-UAW on May 3rd and 4th. A strong yes vote will show The New School that we will not be deterred from exercising our rights.


WE GOT ELECTION DATES! May 3&4 Vote Union Yes

It’s official! We get to vote for SENS-UAW as our union on May 3rd and 4th, 2017.


We have huge, exciting news! The regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just announced the dates for our election on unionization for May 3rd and 4th.

This quick legal victory means we can transition from organizing for our strike authorization vote to organizing for our union election.  The foundation of strong union support for the strike authorization that was built over the last several weeks has resulted in an even deeper commitment to win our union vote.  So good news and even better news – the strike authorization vote is off and the union election is on!

When the majority of us vote yes, The New School will have a legal obligation to bargain with us. Like student employees at more than 60 university campuses across the US, we will gain the ability to negotiate for and secure improvements in a binding contract.

The NLRB election will take place on Wednesday, May 3rd and Thursday May 4th, from 10am-4pm in the Lower Level of 6 e16th Street. Further details to follow.

You can read the full NLRB decision here.

If you would like to get involved in helping get out the vote in your or other departments help win this historic election, please send us an email or fill out this form.

TNS stays the course; we will keep mobilizing!

On Monday this week President Van Zandt responded to the December 21 letter from SENS-UAW organizers committing to prepare for a strike authorization vote if the administration continued to stall and the NLRB refrained from taking action on our case. While we are encouraged by initial action from the NLRB soon after our letter, and Van Zandt’s responding directly to us for the first time as a union, he made it clear that the administration will continue refusing to agree to a fair voluntary recognition process and instead wait for a legal decision to be handed down by the regional NLRB. This response makes it clear that we will need to keep moving ahead on both tracks, preparing to win an NLRB election and simultaneously preparing for a possible strike if the NLRB doesn’t move quickly and the administration continues to refuse to agree to a reasonable voluntary agreement.

Keep your ears posted for our meeting for next week where we will continue planning for pushing forward this coming semester. Until we have an election date, we cannot rule out striking as an option to prevent more delays.

NLRB takes action on our case!

Great news! The National Labor Relations Board has just issued a decision on our unionization petition. They have remanded the case back to the regional NLRB to take “further appropriate action consistent with Columbia University,” referring to the August decision affirming the right to collective bargaining for RAs and TAs. Based on this action, we hope the regional NLRB will process our case efficiently so that we can have a unionization election sometime early in the spring semester.

You can read today’s full decision here. This is another huge win, for student employees at the New School and for graduate workers at private universities across the country. Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to get us this far!

Thanks to everyone who met, discussed, and signed onto our statement earlier this week to President Van Zandt. While today’s NLRB action is good news, we need to remain mobilized and ready to not just vote yes in a NLRB election, but also to continue pressuring the administration not to stall the NLRB process and to fight as we move forward for a strong union contract.

We will be in touch as soon as we know more about next steps, most likely after January 1. Happy holidays!